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What do you get if you cross a tropical island wrapped in white sandy beaches in the middle of the Indian Ocean with a luxury hotel that's received a $48million makeover?
And throw in a couple of private islands, three beaches, two pools, a spa and a helicopter transfer from the airport to the on-site helipad. The answer is the Shangri-La Le Touessrok on Mauritius, the epitome of luxury on an island bristling with five-star hotels.
It was originally opened as a restaurant in the 1970s. So customers could happily drink with dinner without worrying about driving home, the owner decided to build a few bungalows.
Over the following years he bought a neighbouring sugar plantation and expanded into a 200-room hotel - until, in 2015, Shangri-La turned up with some serious cash and a plan to create the hotel with the biggest wow in Mauritius.
We sweep down the palm tree-lined drive, yards from the ocean and the hotel's jetty. After a slick check in we're escorted to our room in the Frangipani wing.
It has two levels, the lower dominated by an enormous bed overlooking patio windows and a balcony facing a quiet beach. The upper level bathroom is focused around a huge egg-shaped bath, big enough for two or maybe three.
The Frangipani wing boasts Republik, a beach bar style restaurant that spills onto one of Le Touessrok's beaches. Grilled seafood and smoked marlin, as we sit on cushions on the sand, is the perfect way to begin our stay.
And then, astonishingly, a waiter glides smoothly across the sand on a Segway, delivering fruit platters of watermelon and pineapple and cocktails.
The spa showcases the island's botanical produce, growing their own herbs to incorporate into massages. I opt for the two-and-a-half hour 'Seven Essences of Chamarel' - a pampering extravaganza made up of a coco hair treatment, sugar cane body scrub, eye and face mask, aloe vera body wrap and a Tipik massage that leaves me in a lemongrass essence-induced daze for hours.
For all its exclusive seclusion, the Frangipani wing isn't even the most luxurious part of the hotel. That award goes to the three villas nestled at the far end of the grounds with their own private beaches and infinity pools.
With a 24/7 butler team and your own chef on standby to cater to your every craving, it's a 'household' set up designed to make guests feel like they're in a private home.
As we explore the expansive pad, I glance at the branded mini dressing gowns and slippers for the kids. It's certainly not like any private home I've ever been to.
Fancying a change from paddling in the turquoise waters off the hotel's several beaches, I feel like venturing out so head to the jetty that ferries guests to two nearby islands.
Ile aux Cerfs is home to a Bernhard Langer designed championship golf course often voted one of the world's most stunning, but for the more sedate the hidden gem is Ilot Mangénie, a secluded collection of palm trees and forest ringed by stretches of soft white sand. The island is exclusive for Shangri-La's guests, with butlers serving lobster at tables amongst the trees.
With four restaurants and the Sega rum bar dotted across the hotel, you're spoiled for choice - as well as lots of local seafood, there's Indian and Japanese.
At Safran, spicy aromas draw us towards the open kitchen, where two tandoor ovens sit proudly on display. Safran is a nod to the strong Indian influence on the island, mixing Mauritian staples such as chicken and prawn curry with Southern Indian classics including tandoori salmon and yellow spiced lentils.
Then there's Kushi, the Japanese restaurant with its master sushi chef and an array of cocktails and sake. I go for the Yakinuki, which means time for some DIY. The centre of the table opens out to reveal a grill whilst plates of melt-in-your-mouth wagyu beef, shellfish and vegetables are delivered, which you sizzle on the flames.
Competition for top spot amongst Mauritius's hotels is fierce, as each pushes the boundaries. Who knows what they'll come up with next, but for now Le Touessrok is setting the bar at a dizzy height.
First published in the Daily Mail - November 2017
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